To be grateful, thankful, and hopeful here in Oakland for:

  • The view of the hills from almost anywhere in Oakland, the blue, blue sky and warm sun, under which grow flowers even at Christmastime….

  • Alameda County Superior Court Justice Jo-Lynne Lee for injecting some common sense into the Oak-to-9th decision made by our city fathers and mothers while they were under the influence of big developers….

  • The warm smiles of my students at Edward Shands Adult School….

  • Reporters who report, investigate, and analyze the news about Oakland so that we can change what needs to be changed: Robert Gammon, Jesse Allen-Taylor, and Quynh Tran (formerly of the Montclarion)….

  • Not to forget Peggy Stinnett and Brenda Payton, who made the old Trib must reading for activists or anyone who wanted to know what was really going on around here….

  • Martin Snapp, once of the Trib, now of the Contra Costa Times, who taught me so much….

  • Aileen Moffat, who founded the Prescott Circus 24 years ago so that young people in West Oakland could know and begin to reach their potential….

  • KPFA without which I would know much less about the world; much less be able to act on what disturbs me about it….

  • Adam Parascandola, the new Director of Oakland Animal Services, whom I’ve yet to meet but for whom I have much hope, along with all the volunteers who help make the lives of our animal friends more bearable….

  • Serena Chen, Policy Director of the American Lung Association of the East Bay, for spending so many years trying to make it safer for asthmatics (like my son) to attend public events without a visit to the emergency room. Here’s hoping we still can make it safer for those who live in apartments and condos….

  • Reverend Jim Hopkins of the Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, which has opened its doors to our community in so many ways, making it easier to come together rather than break apart over our differences….

  • All the wonderful farmer’s markets in our town where we buy so much more than organic vegetables….

  • The many arts organizations that help our community of artists survive sometimes even thrive. Yank that kitschy crap off your walls (yeah, those posters of Monets) and buy some original art right here in Oaktown for a pittance. Maybe it’ll be an investment, maybe just pure enjoyment….

  • BTW, Peter Lee, our Lake Merritt muralist and a community institution all by himself….

  • Our City Council, whom we love to complain about but who work long, unappreciated hours on issues from crime and violence to parking and Christmas tree lots…

  • The musicians who play in our symphony but also in our shops and cafes, on our streets, in our schools, in our hot new clubs, and who work mostly for the joy of it and sometimes just for donations….

  • Poets and playwrights, like our own Judith Offer, and spoken-word artists—Oaklanders who use words for their instruments to amuse, anger, and enthrall us….

  • Bookstores like Walden Pond and the other struggling independents in Oakland and Berkeley where we find respite….

  • Ann Katz, of the East Bay Children’s Book Project, who makes sure that children can have books, new books!

  • Sidewalk tables where we visit with friends or just sit quietly in the sun…

  • Airports that bring our families home, no matter how annoying (the family members or the airports—you choose)….

  • Community activists who show up and camp out for hours at City Hall or 1025 2nd Avenue (OUSD) hoping to make sense out of political decisions and fighters for justice everywhere—especially fighters for justice….

  • That reminds me: Barbara Lee, for her quiet words of strength and dissent, and Pete Stark for his outrageous truth telling….

  • People who feed stray cats, take in lost teenagers, plant gardens, write blogs, glue silly things to their cars, wear “Impeach” T-shirts, call their Mom or a talk show, phone bank to “get out the vote,” run for office/work on a campaign, laugh at nothing, cry over everything—if you haven’t done one of these lately, do it today!

Please consider giving this time of year for soul’s sake and your tax break. I have a few suggestions and would like to hear yours.

  • Sponsor a child. I use the International Children’s Fund for a small monthly donation of $22. This small amount provides enough for the basic needs and schooling of the child. There are other good organizations, google “sponsor a child.”

  • If you have any extra money at all or if you can write a letter to a lonely but hopeful child, call the Santa Hotline at the Oakland Post Office at 510-251-3371. Postal workers in Oakland volunteer their time to help children whose families cannot provide the kind of Christmas you’d want for your children. They’ll forward you as many letters as you want and you can be Santa yourself, fun and gratifying. Pick up some letters for your friends. (Read Martin Snapp’s “Santa needs helpers with the write stuff: Volunteers needed to answer his letters”.)

Holiday Presents:

There’s still time to become a CASA (court appointed special advocate), mentoring a foster child and assisting her/him through the social service agencies. Contact Alameda County CASAs.

And your suggestions? Please leave a comment!

Happy Holidays and Merry New Year Every One!